West Virginia's Supreme Court could be in for an overhaul: The state's House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved articles of impeachment against all four justices, accusing them of maladministration, corruption, incompetency, and neglect of duty, among other crimes. "This is truly a sad day for West Virginia, but it is an important step forward if we are going to restore the public's confidence in the judiciary," said the committee's Republican chairman, John Shott, per NPR. Of the 14 articles, four apply to Chief Justice Margaret Workman, four to Justice Robin Davis, two to Justice Elizabeth Walker, and eight to Justice Allen Loughry, who wrote a book on corruption in the state before being indicted this summer on charges of fraud, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering, stemming from an investigation into improper use of state resources.
The impeachment articles heading to a Monday House vote accuse the four justices—a fifth, Justice Menis Ketchum, retired in July but will plead guilty to federal wire fraud, per the Charleston Gazette-Mail—of "unnecessary and lavish" spending during office remodeling and failing to account for state resources. But the committee's ranking Democrat says only Loughry's actions are worthy of impeachment. Noting the articles were filed a week before a deadline to arrange a November special election for any vacant seats, Barbara Fleischauer fears "a coup" that would allow Republican Gov. Jim Justice to appoint justices until the next election in 2020, if a Senate trial ultimately finds wrongdoing. "They dragged this out all summer long, and suddenly they put this on the agenda," she says. Per NPR, the court was previously 3-2 in favor of Democrats. (Read more West Virginia stories.)